Social media and depression

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Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability worldwide. This can have serious effects on a person’s life including under achievement in school, under-employment, and poorer quality relationships and physical health. All of this is not to mention its risk factor for self-harm and suicide.

With 88 percent of 18 to 29-year olds using social media, there has been much to look into in terms of its impact on mental health. The results are mixed. It can be a good source of social support but on the other hand it can also be used for social comparison, potentially highlighting a person’s inadequacies and insecurities.

A study published in Depression and Anxiety looked at 1,179 full time university students in the country. Participants answered a survey asking questions about depression symptoms including questions which ask how often in the past 7 days a person felt hopeless, worthless, helpless, or depressed. They also had to provide an estimate of the percentage of their social media experience that was positive and the percentage that was negative.

It found that for every 10 percent increase in a positive experience, a person saw a 4 percent decrease in depression symptoms. Meanwhile, a 10 percent increase in negative experience on social media resulted in a 20 percent increase in depression symptoms.

“The authors conclude that negative experiences are more influential on depression symptoms than positive experiences,” the study said, “which might be to do with the tendency for people to focus more on the negative aspects of self, others and the world around us (called negativity bias).”

 

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